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Call for removal of union exemption from Brethren

26 September 2006

Greens call for removal of union exemption from Brethren

The Green Party, which played a central role in 2000 in providing the Exclusive Brethren with an exemption from union access to their work places, is now calling for the removal of the exemption.

"The Exclusive Brethren, by their own actions last year when they circulated leaflets calling for a change of government, and their ongoing political activism, have violated the main reason why the exemption was granted in the first place, " Green Party Industrial Relations Spokesperson Sue Bradford says.

"When I rose in the House in August 2000 to support the exemption, I quoted from one of the Brethren's own publications which stressed their avowed separation from all groups and associations of a political, social or business nature. At the time, I felt their separation from the world to be a sincerely held position of conscience.

"The Brethren's subsequent political activism - and not just in New Zealand but in Sweden, Australia and the United States as well - has shown them to be a highly political organisation, actively engaged in changing the world..

"The initial exemption had given more weight to the apparently deeply held and scripturally based aversion of the Exclusive Brethren to unions, than it gave to the rights of their workers to organise.

"Given the current evidence of the Brethren's political involvement and the scale of their business activities, that balance must now be re-dressed. Many workers in Brethren companies and schools are not members of the Brethren sect, and the number of workers involved is considerable. On 2004 figures the Brethren operate some 800 businesses in New Zealand.

The Brethren cannot have their cake and eat it too. They cannot any longer claim an exemption based on their alleged detachment from the world. Not when they are also claiming the right to be fully engaged in that world to the extent of spending over a million dollars on seeking to influence how their fellow citizens cast their votes. "

ENDS

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